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Search continues for escapee

by Paul Darst

STAFF WRITER

SALEM -- Police searching for a 20-year-old man who escaped from the Industrial Home for Youth Friday have centered their pursuit on the area around the facility.

Meanwhile, an officer attacked during the escape has been discharged from Ruby Memorial Hospital, a nursing supervisor said Sunday evening.

Area police have received several reports of sightings of Joshua Dean Sprague, of Wood County, but he remained at large Sunday night, said Dallas Staples, associate director of the state Division of Juvenile Services.

"We're still searching and asking those with information to call," Staples said Sunday.

"We're searching the perimeter there at the Industrial Home. The last sightings we had were pretty close to that area."

Sprague escaped at 10:42 p.m. Friday when he allegedly attacked corrections officer Thomas R. Premo, of Fairmont, an 8-year juvenile services veteran, Staples said.

Sprague allegedly struck Premo several times in the head with a fire extinguisher, destroyed his radio, took his keys and escaped, Staples said.

After Premo was attacked, other inmates fixed his radio and called for medical help, Staples said.

Teams of corrections officers, including canine units, from the Huttonsville Correctional Center joined in the search for Sprague on Sunday, Staples said.

Sprague was serving a three-year sentence at the home for grand larceny and fleeing an officer, said state trooper Gregory L. Campbell of the Bridgeport detachment.

His sentence was scheduled to end in December of 2000, officials said.

This is the first escape from the home in about five years, Campbell said. Corrections officers there usually thwart escape attempts before inmates make it off the grounds, he said.

Sprague is approximately 6-feet, 6 inches tall, weighs 240 pounds and has short sandy brown hair, according to Staples. He has an encircled "J" tattoo on his right inner ankle and a burn mark in the shape of a penny on his left hand between his index finger and thumb.

Officials are concerned about Sprague because he routinely takes medication for seizures.

Those with information on the whereabouts of Joshua Sprague can call their local branch of the state police, the Salem Police Department at 782-1313 or the Industrial Home for Youth at 782-2371.

Staff writer Paul Darst can be reached at 626-1404.

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